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Freefalling Flyers embarrassed by Rangers

NEW YORK - Three grueling practices last week, the Flyers insisted at the time, would serve as a wake-up call.

The Rangers chased chased Flyers goaltender Brian Boucher with 13:32 left in the second period. (Seth Wenig/AP)
The Rangers chased chased Flyers goaltender Brian Boucher with 13:32 left in the second period. (Seth Wenig/AP)Read more

NEW YORK - Three grueling practices last week, the Flyers insisted at the time, would serve as a wake-up call.

Instead, they have continued to hit the "snooze" button.

They suffered their season-worst fourth straight loss Sunday, falling to the playoff-hungry New York Rangers, 7-0, as Ryan Callahan scored his first career hat trick before a taunting, sellout crowd at Madison Square Garden.

Callahan finished with four goals, giving him 20 for the season.

"Right now, we're just a little off, and when you're a little off and playing teams that are desperate, it can make a big difference," said losing goalie Brian Boucher after the Flyers' most lopsided loss since a 9-1 defeat to Buffalo in 2006. "Things aren't going our way right now, but when you pull back and look at it, we've won 40 games this year."

Defenseman Chris Pronger said the Flyers "have to get back to playing as a team and as groups of five out there. Some guys are on one page, and other guys are on another page. We have to all get on the same page to make sure we're playing the system and structure the coaching staff has put in place."

Boucher said the skid "certainly is frustrating, but we have to stick together and realize we're a good team that's done good things this year."

The Flyers are in danger of losing their first-place leads in the Eastern Conference and Atlantic Division. They are two points ahead of Boston and Pittsburgh in the East; Pittsburgh is two behind in the Atlantic, although the Flyers have two games in hand.

The Flyers are only five points ahead of Tampa Bay, the fifth-place team in the East.

The Rangers, who had lost their previous four games against the Flyers this season, built a 4-0 lead and chased Boucher with 13 minutes, 32 seconds left in the second period during the nationally televised mismatch.

Center Jeff Carter, who shares the Flyers leadership with 28 goals, missed the game because of the flu. Several other Flyers are just getting over the flu, which may have contributed to the recent skid.

"This team is still on top, and this is a good test for us," said winger Kris Versteeg, whose turnover led to the Rangers' third goal. "We have to learn from it. It can't always be roses. You have to really dig down deep at these times. You have to become stronger as a team at times like this."

It took the Rangers 51 seconds to take the lead. Brandon Dubinsky went behind the net, broke away from defenseman Braydon Coburn (minus-4), and tried to score on a wraparound. His shot deflected off the stick of Callahan and past Boucher, putting New York ahead, 1-0.

With New York on a power play, Callahan made it 2-0, going upstairs to beat Boucher from the side of the net with 7:02 left in the first, a period in which the Rangers outshot the visitors, 14-7. Not even Jody Shelley's win over Brian Boyle in a fight could jump-start the Flyers in one of their worst periods of the season.

In the opening minute of the second period, captain Mike Richards, trying to create some life, went head-to-head in a fight with Dubinsky. Richards lost the fight. The Flyers lost the last two periods, getting outscored, 5-0, and looking like they had quit in the final minutes.

The Flyers power play went 0 for 5, and is 2 for 32 in the last nine games.

Besides the power-play futility, the Flyers continued to give up numerous odd-man rushes, continued to lack a good forecheck, continued to turn over the puck at inopportune times.

Offensively, they have not scored more than three regulation goals in the 15 games since the all-star break, excluding empty-netters. In short, they haven't played with the "tiger blood" that a certain actor has been talking about.

"It was a beat-down and a half, but we have to move on," Richards said. "We have to bounce back with a better effort and just stick with the program. Don't try to do too much and don't start pointing fingers. Be confident in the group."

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